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7 May 2017

Sam Bird and Ferrari triumph in Spa

Sam Bird helped Ferrari pull off a resounding one-two in the GTE-Pro class at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, crossing the line first after a thrilling battle between the two AF Corse 488 GTEs.

Top of the podium in Spa

Sam and Davide Rigon in the #71 car triumphed in a close fight with the #51 car of team-mates Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado to win the second round of the World Endurance Championship.

The large Spa crowd was entertained by a contest in which the two Ferraris were almost tied together for the entire race, before Sam broke free in the final stint of the race to repeat his and Rigon's triumph last year in the Ardennes.

This result puts Ferrari ahead of Ford in the Constructors' Championship, while the two crews are joint second in the drivers' rankings.

The victory was built on Sam's qualifying drive, which converted Rigon's earlier fast time into a combined total quick enough to beat the lead Ford to pole position by over four tenths of a second.

Sam said: "It could not have gone any better - I am very pleased because I didn't expect this pole. We are coming from a less than brilliant race at Silverstone, but here it was an entirely different story.

"I think I can say that the car I drove in qualifying is the best Ferrari I've ever driven. We did a lot of work in the simulator at Maranello and this left us confident we would be able to do well in the race."

Rigon started the race on pole, maintaining a lead over the two Fords, while traffic compacted the field and allowed the #51 to move up to second.

The first pit stop and driver change found the Ferraris chasing the Ford of Olivier Pla, who had not changed tyres. With Spa seeing heavy tyre consumption Per Guidi and Sam were able to quickly close the gap, and soon the #51 Ferrari overtook the Ford.

However Per Guidi was pushed wide by a Toyota and Sam seized the opportunity to move ahead of the #51 car.

A full course yellow early in the fourth hour allowed both Ferraris to pit and gain time, continuing their close battle with a lead of a minute over their rivals.

At the final pit stops, tyre management recommended a change for car #51, during which Calado replaced Pier Guidi. However the team decided to take a risk with #71 by just refuelling and Sam went on to finish ahead of his team-mate and the #66 Ford of Pla-Mucke-Johnson.

Sam praised the team effort that led to a successful weekend: "With pole, P1 and P2 Ferrari have taken maximum points here and that's a brilliant result. Well done to my team-mate Davide, the guys in the #51 car and everyone at Maranello and at AF Corse."